Netflix: Your parental controls break everything

Normally I’m an email kind of guy and if a site takes so many precautions to not publish any possible way to contact them except via phone, I’d just bag it altogether and choose an alternative. I actually took the time to call Netflix though. Their streaming service is pretty much unusable for us. I’ve been tempted to just completely disable it and wait until some future date when they get it better but the kids want their cartoons you know..

Ah, that’s the reason the problem exists in the first place. Kids. The story goes something like this: You hook up your Netflix ready device and are all excited to stream Netflix content right to your living room so your kids can watch TV for $8 a month instead of whatever unreasonable fees your cable provider would charge for content you don’t want. You turn it on, log in and walah.. tons of content all on demand. So far so good.

Next you notice that right there along with your kids favorite cartoons they are advertising the latest horror flick complete with graphic images and sexually suggestive content. You think to yourself, ah, no problem. I’ll just go ahead and enable those parental controls. Great. At first you try PG/unrated, thinking that will do it but you realize that there are still a bazillion Pre PG-13 films from the 80s that show up in your content and aren’t exactly what you want your 7 and 5 year old browsing through.

Finally you choose rated G content as the last alternative. Great. Now the only thing your kids see is Barney, Thomas the Train, Care Bears and a bunch of other kids content. Problem solved. Sort of.

Problems Created:
* You can’t override your Netflix ready device with a password when you want to watch something besides a kids show.
* If you change the controls back, it takes 6 hours before the devices are updated.

So yeah. It’s either all good and safe for your kids, but unusable for you, or your kids don’t get access. Hm.

Anyway, back to the phone call… they said they are aware of the issues and are working on a solution. In the mean time… I’ve ranted enough now I guess.

Do we really need super-fast broadband?

Wouldn’t it be nice to download your favorite music track in just 11 seconds? Or a 60 minute TV show in just 1 minute 2 seconds? How about a High definition movie in just over 14 minutes? Is this ever possible? With 50Mb broadband, it is. Virgin Media currently has a 50Mb service that lets you download with speeds which we thought were possible only in our imagination. What it is about 50Mb Broadband anyway? Do we actually need it?

It is clear that the introduction of 50Mb broadband is the result of the ever increasing demand for online entertainment. Apart from the unbelievable download speeds, such broadband services take online gaming to a whole new level. When you can download a game is just under 2 minutes, what more can you ask for? For the hardcore gamer, 50Mb broadband will be a dream come true indeed! Why wouldn’t it be when he himself can host large games and play even the most complicated games without any visible glitches?

And as for online movies and streaming, an up to 50Mb service is more than just utilitarian, for you can stream HD content with almost zero buffering. Not just that, for large households where almost everyone wants a go at the Internet at the same time, an up to 50Mb broadband deal lets every user glide across the Internet through the same connection. When speeds of such order work wonders, one can imagine how a 160Mb broadband connection will perform. This is what 2.5 million Japanese customers have been enjoying for quite some time. Though Virgin media’s 50Mb deal appears to be a breakthrough, at least for the UK customers, it is gearing up for speeds between 100Mb and 150Mb by 2010.

Now do we actually need such super-fast broadband services? Why not, when we can get things done in the wink of an eye, when our homes can be equipped with business broadband speeds, when even the most elaborate virtual world can fly onto our home screen within seconds.

A Few Cool Ways To Use RSS Feeds

So what is all this RSS hype? I’ve known about RSS feeds, what they are for, and how to use them for quite a while. It’s not like they are new or anything! It wasn’t until recently that I started to actually use them though. I didn’t know what I was missing. RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication”. You can read a whole definition for RSS here. Basically, an RSS feed allows you to easily keep yourself up to date with the publisher of the feed.

There are all kinds of interesting feeds available. Instead of checking a favorite blog for instance, you can subscribe to their RSS feed and go back when new content is available. There are feeds for Podcasts, products, and there is even a feed available for letting you know which stores have the Nintendo Wii in stock.

I decided to list here a few ways that I’m using and enjoying RSS feeds. Continue reading “A Few Cool Ways To Use RSS Feeds”

Programming a client for the WHOIS protocol

I have a little task that involves programmatically determining whether DNS servers are set correctly for a domain. Since this project is written in Python, I first set out to see if there were any “whois” clients already available for Python. I eventually found rwhois.py, which is a whois client with recursive ability. I noticed it hasn’t changed since 2003, but thought that if it works, that shouldn’t be much of a problem.

My first run of the program resulted in an error. The client successfully found the registrar information for my domain, but failed to parse and display it. There was a “NoParser for: whois.godaddy.com” exception. I set out to analyze the rwhois.py client and the whois protocol and see if I couldn’t either fix it or come up with something for a replacement.

Continue reading “Programming a client for the WHOIS protocol”

Permalinks

I’ve played around quite a bit with link structure for various sites I’ve programmed. I’ve found that Google will index your pages whether they have a parameterized URLs:
http://somesite.example?param1=this¶m2=that
or parameterized Paths (Permalinks):
http://somesite.example/this/that
I think, however, that in general, search engines like the path portion of the URL better than they like than the query string for indexing search terms. In addition, it makes the URLs easier to read and understand what the page is about.

Hint, for WordPress, you can change the link structure of your site on the options tab. If you change the permissions of the .htaccess file in the WordPress installation, it will even write that file for you. For me, WordPress is running under the apache user account.

>chgrp apache .htaccess
>chmod g+w .htaccess
>ls -la .htaccess
-rw-rw-r-- 1 root apache 204 Oct 1 09:12 .htaccess